Review: Mods and Rox, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich.

Mods and Rox, by Paul Sirett, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, until September 29.

At a time when juke box musicals are all the rage, it is fitting that the world premiere of the New Wolsey’s new show should be staged within the day-glo world of a distinctive Wurlitzer juke box.

Mods and Rox, written by last season’s Reasons To Be Cheerful author, Paul Sirett brings the tale of Cyrano de Bergerac into the Swinging Sixties. Cyrano (or Cyril) is still a whizz with words but instead of poetry, he writes songs.

He’s also still a fighter but instead of fighting the King’s enemies in 18th century France he’s a Mod battling the greasy rockers at Regent Street tube station and under Brighton Pier.

Most of the action is set in and around Carnaby Street where Cyril is a sales assistant in a fashionable clothes shop.

It seems everyone is in love with the beautiful blonde Rox, played with winsome charm by Francesca Jackson. Married Dougie (Trevor Jary) claims her as his bit-on-the-side but it is the handsome Italian Cristiano, played with brilliant comic timing by Michael Woolston-Thomas, that Rox really loves. Meanwhile it is the lovelorn Cyril, played with bravado by Peter Manchester, who truly adores Rox but is forced to look on, crippled by insecurity about his looks.

In the hands of director Peter Rowe the updating works extremely well. All the highlights of the original story are present – the insulting of Cyril’s nose, Cyril’s speaking for Cristiano under Rox’s balcony and Rox’s belated realisation of the true author of words that so moved her.

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Although the show is powered along by a dozen classic mid-60s songs – Itchycoo Park, The Kids Are Alright, My Generation, The In-Crowd and the wonderfully appropriate Substitute – the key song, that glues the whole show together, is a new number Angel of Soho written by Peter Rowe and musical director Ben Goddard.

It’s the love song that replaces Cyrano’s poem from the original story and is used very effectively in several different versions throughout the evening.

It’s a fun show that brilliantly recreates the look and energy that characterised the Sixties and although most of the character development and story is revealed in the first act – there are a couple of key moments in the second half which pack quite an emotional wallop.

A standing ovation rounded off a fantastic night of musical theatre.

As they said on Sergeant Pepper: “A splendid time is guaranteed for all”….oh, and do stay for the encores!

Andrew Clarke

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